Staying Queer While Dating Straight

11/7/2018

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Let’s start with this, the Daily Struggles of Bi Folk: one of my bi friends came out to her boyfriend of five years and he told her to never mention her ‘unnatural’ sexuality in front of him again. Another friend had her boyfriend fetishise their relationship, pushing her towards threesomes. My own ex was constantly paranoid that I would be unable to resist the call of my queer side and would inevitably cheat on him with a woman.

Then came along my current boyfriend of four years who couldn’t be more proud and supportive of my sexuality. I won’t go into how he’s supportive. It’s all stuff that should come naturally to decent human beings, which unfortunately is a standard many people struggle to meet.

However, despite the common misconception of ‘greedy’ bi folk, we really can’t have everything. If you want to gain the support of your straight partner, be prepared to lose it from the LGBT+ community.

It’s a well-worn problem for bi folk who are dating the opposite gender. Yes, on the surface, we seem ‘straight’. We benefit from straight privileges of perhaps never having to come out, of not having to be judged for publicly holding hands or kissing our partner, for not being discriminated against in the workplace. If we want, we can use people’s assumptions as a mask to hide a queerness that is often not fully accepted by the hegemony.

However, despite the privileges that set bi folk apart from the rest of the LGBT+ community, there is still that purgatory-like feeling of not belonging in either camp. You’re not straight, but you’re not gay, and neither side will accommodate this awkward in between.

And, for me, the worst of it comes in two settings when I want to most embrace my queer side: when Pride month rolls along, or when I want to go on a night out in a gay club. These are two public places where I want to finally be out and proud, but where I feel just as judged, or at least just as closely observed, as a gay person in a heterosexual environment.

And the reason? I want to bring my boyfriend along too.

Of course, Pride marches and gay clubs should be space primarily owned by LGBT+ folk. But I am part of the LGBT+ community, so I should be made to feel welcome. I also have the right to bring along my partner, just like anyone else in the community. Just because I’m a woman and my partner is a man, this doesn’t erase my bisexuality. In fact, it should be a celebration of the nuances of LGBT+ culture and the variety of people within the community.

This is how it should happen in theory: I go to Pride or a gay club, I dance and laugh and celebrate with my boyfriend, and it’s all rainbows and sunshine and love. The reality: a gnawing in my stomach that I have betrayed my queer side by bringing a straight person into a gay space and flaunting my straight privileges in front of people who have none.

Of course, I’ve never had any abuse from LGBT+ folk. But imposter syndrome is hard to shake off and creates a barrier between me and the rest of the community that means I can’t fully immerse myself in Pride marches or gay clubs like my gay friends can.

So what’s the solution? Well, it’s certainly not ‘don’t bring your boyfriend.’ If I didn’t bring my boyfriend to Pride events or gay clubs, it would seem like I was ashamed of him. Turn the tables: would it be okay to ask a lesbian to not bring her girlfriend to a family event because it would make people ‘uncomfortable’? Of course not, it’s a horrific suggestion.  My boyfriend isn’t exclusively part of my ‘straight life’, to be brought out in heterosexual spaces and hidden away in queer ones.

When I’m in a gay club and I introduce my boyfriend, I hurriedly say ‘oh, but I’m bi’ as if that, and not the money I just handed over at the door, is my ticket into the club. Or, worst, at the lowest points of desperately wanting to be part of the LGBT+ community, I deny he’s my boyfriend entirely. What kind of person goes to a club and pretends they’re single? I don’t want to be that person, and my own community shouldn’t force me into that position of denial that we LGBT+ folk have fought so hard to overcome.

So what to do if you’re a bi person in a queer space with your straight partner? Firstly, be respectful that you’re introducing an element of heteronormativity and understand what responses may come about from it. Secondly, make sure that your partner will be sensitive and open minded. If they’re a straight man, they mustn’t be made uncomfortable by gay men, or leery over gay woman; if they’re a straight women, they can’t gush over wanting a gay best friend. This attitude isn’t confined to queer spaces, like marches or clubs. Honestly, if your straight partner isn’t respectful of queer culture in your everyday relationship, then maybe have a think about whether they should be have the privilege of loving a bi person.

Finally, change your mindset: be confident and proud of who you are. And then everyone else, straight or LGBT+, has to change their mind set too: I’ve embraced my own version of a queer identity, and I want others to accept it too because, for me, being part of the LGBT+ community means you understand the concept of love without exception.

Although people make out that bisexuality is black and white, being bi is more a mixed palette. Being a bi woman means I can wave a rainbow flag in one hand and hold my boyfriend’s hand in the other, and how is that not something to be proud of?

Florianne Humphrey
Flo Humphrey is a recent English Literature graduate who is now working as a journalist. Flo has written a Young Adult novel with a queer protagonist and a play exploring themes of queerness, feminism, and gender identity. She also runs creative writing workshops and tutors creative writing online.